Let Oracle own APIs, Justice Dept tells top court in surprise filing


Fortune

The right of companies to use key elements of computer code, known as application programming interfaces (APIs), was cast deeper into doubt on Tuesday after the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to hear a controversial case that pits Google [fortune-stock symbol=”GOOG”] and a long list of supporters against Oracle [fortune-stock symbol=”ORCL”].

The news came after the Supreme Court asked the Obama Administration in January to weigh in on a lower court ruling last year that favored Oracle, and shocked many in the tech industry.

The issue before the court is when, if at all, APIs can be protected by copyright. The outcome has serious repercussions not just for Google, but the entire software industry, since APIs act as a sort of lingua franca that allow different computer programs to deliver instructions to each other.

In the case of Oracle and Google, the dispute turns on the search giant’s…

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